The Blue Zone diet: Embracing habits of the world’s healthiest people


by Baylor Scott & White Health

Feb 19, 2024

Finding the balance between a busy schedule and a healthy lifestyle can be challenging. Sticking to a diet can seem impossible when life is filled with meetings, family activities, deadlines and quick meals.

But a diet that’s gotten a lot of buzz recently—the Blue Zone diet—is surprisingly easy to follow, even on the go. In part, that’s because the Blue Zone isn’t a strict diet but an approach to nutrition that nourishes your body and promotes a balanced and sustainable lifestyle.

What's the Blue Zone diet all about?

The Blue Zone diet is an approach to eating inspired by the habits of people who live in “blue zones”— regions in the world where people live the longest and healthiest lives. Think places like Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California. 

Research has shown that individuals who live in these zones have a diet rich in plants, legumes, whole grains and nuts with some animal proteins like fish and lean poultry consumed a few times a week, all of which contributes to their long lifespans and overall feelings of wellness. They savor every bite, emphasizing mindful eating and moderate portions. It's not just about what they eat, it's about how they eat it: slowly, with joy and in good company.

Navigating restaurants and fast-food spots

Many Americans, however, eat on the run, which often leads to choosing foods that are convenient over those that are healthy. But whether you’re sitting down for lunch at a fine-dining restaurant or grabbing take-out at your favorite local diner, navigating menus with Blue Zone principles in mind is surprisingly easy. Here are a few tips:

  • Opt for salads packed with colorful veggies and legumes.
  • Look for whole-grain options like brown rice or quinoa.
  • Choose a fruit cup or fruit salad as a side.
  • Look for the olive oil. Mediterranean eateries often offer dishes with olive oil, a Blue Zone staple.
  • Try plant-based meat alternatives.
  • Pick grilled veggies, beans or lentil soups rather than fried options.
  • Request dressings and sauces on the side for control over portions and ingredients.

You can even find choices at fast-food joints and convenience stores that align with the Blue Zone diet, such as tuna fish sandwiches, veggie-packed wraps, hummus cups or salads with olive oil-based dressings. Look for whole-grain options and skip sugary beverages in favor of water, sparkling water or herbal tea.

Quick Blue Zone meals at home

Preparing Blue Zone-friendly meals at home doesn't have to be time-consuming. Next time you’re in need of a little inspiration, try these quick and easy meal ideas.

  • Whip up a colorful veggie stir-fry with tofu or chickpeas.
  • Embrace the simplicity of a hearty bean and vegetable soup or a nourishing grain bowl loaded with greens and your favorite legumes.
  • Batch-cook whole grains like quinoa or brown rice for easy meals throughout the week.
  • Treat yourself to a fruit-and nut-packed smoothie for a quick, nutritious breakfast or snack.

If you are embracing a plant-based diet, add nutritional yeast or a fortified plant milk (such as soy, pea protein, oat or almond) into your meals to ensure you’re getting vitamin B12 each day.

Embracing Blue Zone habits

While you’re running between the office and errands and home, remember the essence of the Blue Zone lifestyle: mindful eating and community. Slow down when you can, savor each bite and relish the joy of sharing meals with loved ones.

Try not to be on your phone or turn off the television while you’re eating. Incorporate small changes to your eating habits—a handful of nuts for a snack or an extra serving of veggies at dinner. Make mealtime a sacred pause in your day, even if it's just for a few moments.

The appeal of the Blue Zone diet lies in its adaptability. It's not a rigid set of rules but rather a guide to making healthier choices. So, whether you're rushing between meetings or enjoying a leisurely dinner, infuse your day with Blue Zone wisdom.

Remember, it's not just about eating—it's about thriving!

Want to work Blue Zone or other healthy eating habits into your busy day? Connect with a registered dietitian for nutrition services near you.


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